By Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu and Mthabisi Tshuma
The level of crime in the country especially around mining areas is threatening to get out of control after a gang of nine robbers armed with an AK-47 rifle and a pistol besieged five homesteads in Fort Rixon area in Insiza District where they got away with money and cellphones from suspected gold dealers.
In movie style, the gang on Thursday night first kidnapped a woman who was relieving herself in the bush before force-marching her to the homesteads where they stole money amounting to $2 000, US$300, P10 and four cellphones.
Deputy National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Blessmore Chishaka confirmed the incident which occurred at around 1am in Mount Royal area.
He said the gang further force-marched their victims to another homestead where they held them hostage and threatened to shoot them.
“I can confirm that we recorded an armed robbery case which occurred at Mount Royal area in Fort Rixon. A gang of nine male adults who were armed with an AK-47 rifle and a pistol came across a lady who was relieving herself in the bush and they kidnapped her. They force-marched her to a homestead in the area which is owned by a gold dealer.
“They forcibly gained entry into his house and demanded cash from him at gunpoint.
He gave them $1 000, US$30, P10 and three cellphones. They went to a second homestead where they also demanded cash and left with $250 and US$30. They proceeded to another homestead where they robbed the complainant of $220 and US$32.
The gang further went to another homestead where they demanded cash and they left with $500 and a cellphone. In each homestead they robbed, the gang force- marched their victims out of their homesteads and took them with them.
The gang went to a fifth homestead where they ordered their victims to lie on the ground facing down. They threatened to shoot anyone who would raise their head before fleeing the scene. The matter was reported to the police who attended the scene,’’ said Chief Sup Chishaka.
Chief Supt Chishaka said police had launched a manhunt for the gang and appealed to members of the public with information that could lead to their arrest to contact any nearest police station. He said the police have heavily deployed officers in the area and surrounding areas following the spate of armed robbery cases.
“I would like to give a strong and stern warning to such culprits that the long arm of the law will catch up with them. We are investigating similar cases and we have so far made some arrests which is an indication that we will close in on these culprits.
“As police we urge people to quickly report any suspicious activities in their areas so that as police we can act swiftly and bring these culprits to book. We appeal to members of the public with information that can lead to the arrest or identification of these suspects to contact the police,” he said.
Sunday News yesterday visited the area where some of the villagers and those who were affected said they are still trying to come to terms with what happened when the gun-totting robbers pounced.
Businesswoman Ms Raviro Mabhugu who was one of the victims said since the incident she has failed to sleep properly and the episodes keep flashing in her mind.
“These men came to our home and called my name Tete as I am known here.
“They demanded us to open and said they wanted cash. We rejected that and they started to forcibly hit the roof and the door before gaining entry. When they forcibly opened, they held us at gun point and demanded cash. I tried to call out that mbava mbava but they beat us until we realised that they would not leave until we give them cash,” said Ms Mabhugu.
“There were four of them inside and some were outside. They got away with $500 cash and after that they attacked a passerby.”
Another villager Ms Maria Mhlanga said all along the area was peaceful and they never thought that the “MaShurugwi” will pounce on them.
“We are hearing stories of these gangs and now that they are here, we are fearing for our lives. The police are trying their best but Government should stand up and address the issue. Schools are opening and now we fear for our children, they can be attacked,” said Ms Mhlanga.
The villagers said although the attack last week was the most violent, it was not the first.
Ms Mhlanga said on 23 December another gang which was armed with machetes robbed fours shops at Riverside Business Centre.
“They have not been caught as far as we know, the whole village is now living in fear, we are not sure when they will come back, please, please, let those in authority help us,” she pleaded.
The incident comes at a time when the country is experiencing a spate of gang attacks especially around mining towns.
The violence is perpetrated by rival gangs who have earned a moniker “MaShurugwi” who often attack their victims using machetes.
The attacks which started in Midlands have spread to other areas especially in gold hotspots like some part of Matabeleland South. Sunday News